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Wet winter a mixed bag for area farmers

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Charlie Benton

News-Sun

With a wetter than usual winter, area farmers have had a mixed bag of good and bad to deal with, from wetter conditions for some better crop growth, but also increased potential for some crop diseases that ravage harvests.

“We got some bad, and we got some good. That’s kind of the way farming is though,” said Lea County farmer Gary Jackson. “We’ve had some blessed rains in spots, and we’ve had some very damaging hail in spots.”

He said that some of his cotton and chile fields received severe hail damage, with 100 percent wipeout in some places. However, he said the hail damage this season is nowhere near as bad as it was in the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons.

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“Everything that didn’t get beat up, the rain really helped,” he said.

Peter Bergen, a Gaines County farmer raising 5,000 acres of cotton, peanuts and wheat, agreed to the double-edged weather this year.

“The rain has been almost perfect, but the hail was damaging,” he said.

He said only one 120-acre circular cotton field received severe hail damage.

“Out of 30 circles, only one circle getting hailed out is not bad,” he said. “We just feel lucky.”

Bergen also said that after the rains in early June, he wouldn’t need to worry about irrigation for a few weeks.

“It should be beneficial all the way around,” Lea County Extension Agent Wayne Cox said of the rain.

Cox added that he had not heard of any incidents of fields washing out in the weather and said that ranchers were also seeing benefits from the rain due to increased grass growth.

However, Tyler Mays, a Texas Extension Agent working in Gaines, Yoakum and Terry counties expressed some negative concerns about the rain.

“The little bit more humidity is setting us up for a little more disease pressure in the peanuts for sure,” he said. “The higher humidity levels will make it easier for the spores of fungi to germinate and shoot their penetration peg down into a leaf.”

He said some of the diseases could cause peanut pods to rot away or plants to defoliate with major consequences to the crop’s yield. However, he has not seen any cases in Gaines County.

Mays also expressed concerns about weed pressure brought on by the weather, particularly from carelessweed.

“That’s something that’s pretty easily solved,” he said. “We have herbicides out, and we have herbicide tolerance in crops.”

He said the rain is also providing some positives, mainly in the area of irrigation.

“Any time we can get rain and not have to run the pivot around, we’re doing good. Rainfall is a lot better irrigator than a center pivot, because we can’t get it (the pivot) right down to the ground.”

He predicted a good harvest of both cotton and peanuts, although he pointed out that it is too early to know for sure.

“We should have a good yield, but we’re talking about something that’s four months down the road, too. There’s a lot of things that can happen in those four months, but the conditions right now are setting up for a good yield.”

Charlie Benton can be reached at 575-391-5434 or by email.

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